Interview: Q (1998)

April 03, 1998

The following article by Adrian Deevoy appeared in the "Cash For Questions" column in the April 1998 issue of Q magazine...

You were intrigued by his eerie hairline. You wanted to know why his solo career is "so shit". But mostly you wanted to know how he "did it", how long he "did it" for and what he thought about while he was "doing it". Meet the prurient people, Sting.

Sting is standing in the sitting room of his glorious New York apartment, a big question furrowing his high and indeed mighty brow.

How will he be remembered? For Roxanne's rallying squawk or the sublime bassline to 'Walking On The Moon'? For his endeavours to save the rain forests or his Red Indian mate with the CD tray in his lip? Perhaps it will be for the universal touch of 'Every Breath You Take' or his moving encounter with mortality on 'The Soul Cages'. But it won't be, will it? Because Sting will go down in history as the man who liked shagging. For ages.

"They're obsessed, aren't they?" frowns the Knobmeister General amusedly studying a sheaf of Q readers' questions, most of which seem to concern themselves with his part in the protracted sexual act. "Actually, I blame Q Magazine for this whole thing," he laughs, referring to an over-refreshed afternoon spent discussing the merits of tantrum sex with Bob Geldof and the organ in question. "It's responsible for a great deal of misinformation on the subject. Anyway, I was drunk at the time so I'm not taking any of the blame."

Not that Sting is doing anything to dispel the mystic marathon man myth. The previous evening was spent hanging out at a yoga centre in Soho with actor Willem Dafoe and a gaggle of sari'd lovelies. Next week he's off to a remote part of India with his fragrant wife for a spot of meditation. Well he says, it's better than sitting around doing nothing.

But the sub-continent can wait, for there is business to attend to. Sting sinks into the sofa, pulls out a question and inevitably plunges in at the messy end...

After several unsuccessful attempts I have managed some time ago to have sexual intercourse with my girlfriend for a full one minute and seventeen seconds. Since a few months have now elapsed I am contemplating an even better performance. Can you help?

When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear. The salmon will chase the fisherman, the seagull will follow the trawler. Actually, perhaps this is a good time to clear this thing up and maybe clarify what I think tantric sex actually is. Tantric is a way of looking at the world where every human activity - for example, eating, walking, breathing, standing - is an opportunity for a devotional practise, where you can say, I am a scared being and everything I do can be charged with a sense of meaning. There's something very profound to it because you're not saying, Right I'm off to church now to be a holy person, you are accepting that everything you do can potentially be full of grace. This applies to lovemaking particularly because it's such a magical act. You could be creating life and what could be more sacred than that?

I understand that you saw Jimi Hendrix at the Club A Go-Go in Newcastle. Did you travel on the Number 11 bus and, if so, how did you get home after the second set?

Good point. We used to walk back to Wallsend from the Club A Go-Go. You'd have this massive walk home and then your dad would beat you up for getting in at three in the morning. Hendrix was amazing. It was very early on, I think Hey Joe had just come out so I must have been about 14. I don't think I'd ever seen a black person before, I certainly hadn't seen a black person playing an upside down Fender before. Or smashing it through the ceiling of a sweaty night club.

How do you sign your cheques and can I please have one?

Rarely and no. Send any further requests to Keith Moore (Sting's former accountant who "gave it some toes" with £6 million of his employers earnings). You can contact him courtesy of Wandsworth jail.

What is the best song you've ever written?

God, I don't know. I can tell you the most successful song is 'Every Breath You Take' because of the number of people who bought it. On American radio alone it's been played over 4 million times, which is something like twenty-four years of continuous airplay. But the best? I really don't know.

Have you ever had an homosexual experience?

Yes, I go to football every Saturday with twenty million other men.

Can you stand watching 'Dune'?

I'm not the sort of person that seeks out his own films or albums but I actually saw 'Dune' quite recently when I was flicking through the channels in a hotel room in the Midwest. Suddenly there they were, the flying underpants. They were great but very tricky to get on under your flares. I still don't actually know what 'Dune' was about but then I don't know if anyone did. I think David Lynch made a three and a half hour film that was cut down to two hours so it probably made sense before the edit.

Back in the '80s I used to think, Sting's got a really big forehead, he'll be bald by the time he's a multi-million selling artist. However, your hairline hasn't budged an inch. Any secrets?

That's a good question. I've been considered tonsorially challenged for a long time now, probably since my late twenties, but it doesn't seems to have moved very much. I think the important thing is not to worry about it, just be who you are. The worst thing you can do is try and disguise it using the various strategies people have - the executive swirl, the big comb over. The best thing is to cut it and say this is how I am. I'm ugly but I'm still sexy.

Is it true that when Bruce Springsteen was on his most recent UK tour he visited your country home and you went for a session in your local followed by kebabs?

Bruce has visited me on a number of occasions but I don't remember us going out for a kebab. Bruce could have done it in protest against the vegetarian menu we offered him. Maybe he went off on his own, I don't know. Actually I'm seeing Bruce tonight so I'll check with him but no, I'm denying the kebab story.

Sir Elton, Sir Cliff. When your time comes will it be Sir Sting?

Doesn't have much of a ring to it, does it? It's going to have to be Lord Sting or nothing. The title I'd most like is the Duke Of Wallsend.

If you crank up the volume during the fade out of 'Message In A Bottle', am I correct in saying that the final line is "sending out an S.O. Blue" instead of "sending out an SOS"? If so, why?

It is true. It's from an Esso commercial when I was a kid. (Sings) Boom, boom, boom boom - Esso Blue. Excellent anorak question. Excellent anorak answer.

'Outlandos d'Amour', 'Reggatta De Blanc' and 'Zenyatta Mondatta'. Who thought those up?

I often ask myself that. This was all our manager Miles Copeland's creative input at the time. He thought it would be a good idea to give the albums daft names and he kept coming out with these ridiculous titles. I wasn't really confident enough to say, No it should be called Sting. He named the first three albums. Then I did the fourth one, 'Ghost In The Machine'. I liked that title. Pinched, but there we go.

What's in your CD machine as we speak?

At this very moment, The Divine Comedy. It's a fantastic record. great voice, he reminds me of Mike Sarn meets David Byrne meets Scott Walker. It's very clever musically and lyrically and he's a brilliant arranger.

All that tantric sex stuff is all well and good but don't you and Trudie ever get the urge for a quick shag while the kids are watching telly downstairs?

Absolutely. I think a quick bunk-up can be very good medicine.

Do you still masturbate? If not, why not? Do you have a hairy arse?

Yeah, I occasionally have a wank to get myself off to sleep if I'm away from home and feeling a bit lonesome. A quick polish last thing at night usually does the trick and I haven't gone blind yet. Arse-wise, no more or less hairy than any other member of my sex. Or species.

Roughly how much did you benefit financially from Puff Daddy's reworkings of 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Roxanne' and how much creative merit do you credit them with?

The figures aren't in yet but it's a substantial amount of money for a song I wrote fifteen years ago. I have to say I'm pleased by it. It's flattering that someone would choose one my songs to, one, remember his friend by and, more importantly, that's it's a f***ing huge hit. In a way, he's brought that song to a group of people who might never have heard it and he's reinvented it in his own way. It's always slightly galling when someone changes the chords you originally wrote but that's a different mind at work, I'll get over it.

Who got the most groupies in The Police?

Andy was always the cutest. The oldest but the cutest.

At the American MTV awards, you hit a bit of a bum note in the middle of "I'll Be Missing You" and didn't look very comfortable. Were you having a bit of an off day?

That's bollocks. I didn't hit a f***ing bum note. Crap! But it was a strange occasion for me. Diana had just died and I was going to the funeral the next day and that song always conjures up all that stuff anyway so I was a bit emotional. Just before I went on I was in the pit on a hydraulic stage - I was going to be levitated onto the stage with Puff Daddy and his cohorts - there were all these young b-boy black kids down there with me. I was wearing a black Versace suit with a white shirt and a black tie and I had my hair really short and I thought I looked really cool, then this black kid came over and said 'Hey, you look like 'Silence Of The Lambs'!' So I come up on stage having gone from thinking I look great to thinking I look like Hannibal Lecter.

When did you last travel on public transport and, more seriously, aren't you too rich to write good songs anymore?

I got the train from Waterloo to Salisbury about three weeks ago. And I didn't even go First Class. I vote labour. Am I too rich to write good songs? That's an interesting one because money tends to isolate you more than you think. You end up leading a fairly rarefied existence that doesn't relate to a lot of people's experience. It's alienating and I'm not sure how to get out of it because I like having money. I know what it's like not to have money.

Pato Banton - why?

I thought he was an Irishman. Pat O'Banton.

Who's the better fighter, you or Stewart Copeland? Did he really break your ribs during a fight at a Police concert?

I think I've had more experience of fighting but Stewart is much bigger than me. So I guess we're pretty even. But I was reading the New York Times and he grabbed it off me so I punched him. We ended up punching each other all around the stage and I got knocked into the corner of a flightcase and it cracked a rib. He's a lovely bloke.

I read a book called 'Message In A Bottle' by Percy Walker. There's a chapter that relates to the lyrics of your song of the same name. I searched for credits on your album sleeves but have never found any. Was the book an inspiration and why did you never credit it?

I have read 'Message In A Bottle' by Percy Walker and I too was interested that it was very similar to a lot of ideas I'd had but I read it after I'd written the song. And I don't suffer from crypto-amnesia.

Why have you become so shit since you went solo?

Oh I was always shit.

Who is this Gordon Sumner guy I've heard about?

I've lived a long life and it's almost as if my old life was another life. It's very odd. I try to keep contact with people I knew before I was successful because that way I ground myself a little bit. My life now can become so unreal it's important to remember who you are. But Gordon Sumner? Yeah, he was a decent enough bloke.

Would you really consider sucking Bob Geldof's c***?

As Goethe said, There is on evil I have not considered.

© Q magazine



Dec 2, 1997

Every breath he takes: Sting and I meet at London's Dorchester Hotel. He is without his wife, Trudie Styler, who is in Milan, supporting Donatella Versace at the unveiling of the first collection since her brother Gianni's death. And so he has come alone to be feted by the BMI, the body that monitors television and radio use throughout America. Did you know that 'Every Breath You Take' has now been played an official four million times there? That is 17 years and two months of airtime. No wonder Sting refers to his songs as his children...

Dec 1, 1997

Bagels! We urgently need someone to go get Bagels for Puffy's dancers." The order comes through the crackle of the walkie talkie like a Muppet Show Kermit-in-control command. This, however, is no third-rate theatre show run by acid-crazed glove puppets. This is something far more surreal; backstage at the multi-national, satellite- beamed showbiz spectacular: the 1997 MTV Awards in New York...